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Ireland has a target of 1m electric vehicles by 2030, but the sums don’t add up

As new car sales increase post-pandemic, the absolute number of EVs and hybrids on Irish roads is expected to soar in the coming years

Ireland has given itself the laudable goal of having one million electric vehicles  on our roads by the end of the decade

Ireland has given itself the laudable goal of having one million electric vehicles on our roads by the end of the decade

 

Ireland has given itself the laudable goal of having one million electric vehicles (EVs) on our roads by the end of the decade. But is this achievable, and what will the consequences be if we don’t make that target?

Volvo is fully committed to EVs, says David Thomas, managing director of Volvo Car Ireland; the manufacturer is currently targeting that 50 per cent of its new cars sold will be fully electric, with this moving towards 100 per cent by 2030.

But when it comes to the promise of one million EVs on Irish roads, the sums just don’t add up, he believes.

“Unfortunately the maths doesn’t really work,” he says. “The new car market in 2021 is forecast to be just under 100,000 and 125,000 in 2022. If the new car market can then recover back to the circa 150,000 that it has been in the past, the penetration of EVs would need to be close to 100 per cent in the remaining years.”

This is compounded by the fact that more products and production capacity won’t be fully in place until much later in the decade, he adds.

This doesn’t mean we should just give up, however. “Numbers aside, the Government needs to continue to support growth of the market and incentivise plug-in hybrid EVs, which are widely available and growing more popular, and EVs to drive electrification transition to newer cars in use,” Thomas says.

More generally, significant improvements in range and overall performance make it easier for more customers to make the transition to EVs.

“But the different types of customer usage of cars means that EVs won’t be for everyone yet, so Government policy needs to have a sensitive balance to recognise this.”

Global production

The pace of adoption of electric vehicles is increasing, with over 2,800 electric cars registered so far in 2021 alone, says Deirdre Schwer, marketing communications manager with Audi Ireland. The German car manufacturer predicts that it will reach a global production level of approximately 800,000 electrified vehicles per annum by 2025, and is soon to launch its first fully-electric sports car.

“Ireland has made some firm commitments to carbon neutrality by 2050, including a target of 936,000 electric cars by 2030. We believe that electric mobility is far and away the most efficient way to achieve decarbonisation as well as the CO2 fleet goals. This is why we are pursuing a consistent electric road map,” she says, noting that Audi’s electric car share has doubled in the past 12 months since launching new variants of the Audi e-tron model.

“We expect that our electric car model share to grow substantially for the rest of 2021 and in 2022. Customers are looking at what their lifestyle needs will be from a car purchase, and we predict that there will be a gradual transition as we move to mass e-mobility adoption by 2030.”

Despite this she feels the 2030 EV target is “extremely ambitious”, saying there are a number of measures that need to be in place if Ireland is to achieve its one million EV goal.

“The Government need to encourage new car replacement to green the national car fleet. The new car market must grow substantially from the level it is in 2021 – we need a healthy car market of at least 200,000 new cars per year,” says Schwer. The infrastructure and environment that will support EV adoption must also be fostered – purchase incentives and/or grants must also remain over the coming years for both private and business customers, and the current paucity of charging solutions must be addressed.

“The fast-charging network on our motorway network needs to be expanded, and charging solutions for those with on-street parking and in public parking locations need to be developed if we are to achieve greater e-mobility adoption,” says Schwer.

Ambition

According to Renault’s lead product specialist Jeremy Warnock, “the ambition is probably more important than the number”.

He says successive governments have stated their intention of reaching a large number of EVs on the road by then. “The number has not always been one million, but it’s been in that ballpark, and what matters is that it’s a strong declaration that Ireland wants to reduce the climate impact of transport.”

The impact this will have on climate neutrality is significant. “Just as we increase the electric vehicle share of our overall sales, grids are also getting cleaner – so the ultimate goal is an EV, built in a factory using renewable power and run on electricity generated renewably.”

But what’s frustrating is the lack of a clear roadmap and absence of meaningful engagement with the industry that will supply all these cars, says Warnock. “It’s impossible to plan for such a fundamental change when the supports on offer for EVs keep changing with almost no notice.”

Reducing emissions caused by private car usage is the “workhorse” of the drive to make Ireland carbon neutral by 2050, says Declan Meally, Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) head of transport and communities, who adds that three million tonnes of carbon each year could be saved by switching to electric vehicles. “They are powered by renewable electricity – nothing will deliver as much as electric vehicles in terms of direct carbon savings.”

Achievable

He says EVs are ideally suited to Ireland, making their widespread adoption not only feasible but achievable. “EVs really suit Ireland as the ranges we drive are relatively limited.”

There has also been a huge growth in the number and types of cars available to buy under the SEAI grant scheme, with almost 100 now falling under that umbrella. “Even in the last 12 months we have seen that switch in people’s buying preferences,” he adds.

The rationale is sound in terms of the national one million EV target despite scepticism in many quarters, Meally says. “The million cars should comprise hybrids, plug-in hybrids and EVs. At the moment there is well over 100,000 hybrid cars, and over 30,000 EVs.”

So far in 2021, EVs comprise more than 10 per cent of new car sales. This compares with 7 per cent last year, and suggests Ireland is on course to hit 20 per cent of new car sales as EVs by 2023.

As new car sales naturally increase post-pandemic, the absolute number of EVs and hybrids on the road will soar in the coming years, predicts Meally. “We are already seeing that change we need to see in terms of buying patterns.”